The world is awash in productivity hacks, and I've tried many of them. But the one that stands out as making a significant difference in a short period of time is this:
Use a pomodoro timer.
What it is: Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. This technique is named after the tomato shaped kitchen timer the developer of the concept first used to track time spent on a task. Now, there's a bevy of apps that replicate this, but the humble stopwatch works just fine.
How it works:
Determine the task you'll accomplish next. This is the most important step. The power of the pomodoro is the promise you make to yourself that you'll monotask until the timer goes off. Pick one thing. For me, right now, it's writing this post.
Set the timer for 25 minutes and then get to work. I find it helpful to put my phone in airplane mode and close my email. If you feel distracted, remind yourself you'll get a break when the timer goes off.
Take a short break of 3 to 5 minutes when the timer goes off. It's important this break is also timed. If you're at the computer, stand up, stretch, take a quick walk. Check your various accounts if needed. When the timer for the break goes off, reset the 25 minute timer and get back to work.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for four cycles total.
At the end of four 25 / 5 cycles, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes).
Why it Works
Greg McKeown makes the most convincing argument for avoiding multitasking I've encountered. Your energy and attention is limited, so how are going to spend it?
The Pomodoro Timer is a simple technique to focusing your energy towards a meaningful goal.